Brothers and Sisters
This is being discussed between TCM and I at the moment because of the contact Katie and Pip are having with their half sibling Kip. I've written before about how well that is going in the obvious sense. The children get along really well and their relationship is developing positively. I do think there is a fall-out from it all though which I wrote about in "No, I grew in YOUR tummy Mummy" and also in "Chick or Egg?". Thoughts are clearly whirring around in Katie's head and things are definitely coming out of her mouth. This morning, after a very challenging and argumentative start to the day which included Katie peeing on her bed, Katie flounced in and announced that I wasn't her Mummy so I couldn't tell her what to do.
"You're my step-Mummy!" she said.
Clearly she's been watching too many Disney films for this to be her frame of reference!
"******* is my real Mummy" she added
I stopped drying my hair and swivelled around to look at her. She was swinging on the door with a triumphant look on her face which clearly said "I've got one over on her!". This is her raison d'etre at the moment.....to get one over on me. She's such a 6 year old!
I took a breath and said "Honey I am your Mummy. ******* is your tummy Mummy and she grew you and helped make you beautiful. I am the Mummy who gets up with you in the night when you're poorly; I take you swimming and to gymnastics; I tuck you in at night and do everything a Mummy does. I am your Mummy honey and I love you very much".
She seemed satisfied with this answer and nodded and went back to her bedroom to finish taking all the bedclothes off her wet bed. She later came back to say she was sorry and tell me she loved me.
I knew this would happen one day. I've run over the scenario in my head from time to time. I thought it
might be a few years later down the line but Katie is currently challenging everything about TCM and I so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It also highlights that she is feeling unsettled and is trying to make sense of her world. She differentiates between Pip and Kip by saying that Pip is her twin and Kip is her brother. I think there is a way to go on these issues and I'm not naive enough to think that there will be a time soon where Katie accepts without question the fact that she is adopted. I can't say I blame her either. She's coming to an age where children want to be the same as other children and they want everything in their life to be ordered. I remember having a biological Father and a step-Father around the age of 8 and hating that I had two Dads. I didn't want two Dads. I just wanted the one.
With all this in mind there is a part of Katie's life story that we haven't really shared with her yet. This is the fact that her Birth Father has had another child. Katie has a sister. When I've shown her pictures I have shown her the baby and told her that her BF has had this child with his girlfriend but I've not said she is her half-sister. With Kip it always felt more straightforward because we knew we would have direct contact but with her sister that is unlikely to happen. With her sister it will also raise the questions of "Why can't I see her?" and "Why is she living with BF and I wasn't able to?". It's a good question and the answer is one of BF getting a bit older and a change of circumstances and a different BM. How can you explain that to a 6 year old though? TCM and I have discussed this situation on several occasions and debated what we tell Katie about it. At the moment though I feel she has far too much on her 6 year old plate to come to terms with without adding a scenario that we are unable to influence for her.
This leads me onto a wider issue. When you adopt you are encouraged to be as open as possible with your children about their adoption. This is the current thinking. I'm aware from my own training that psychological practises change and adapt all the time as more research data comes to light. My parental instincts are shouting at me not to tell her about her sister at the moment but then that leads to us someday having a big reveal where we share the information and wonder how Katie will react. There is also the issue that we have no background information on Pip's BF whatsoever and I doubt we ever will get any updates. This will give us siblings that are half-blood related yet with very different stories on their BF side. My instinct is almost to organise Katie's LSB so that the pictures and names are there and wait for her to join the dots and ask the question.
The over-riding message we receive from Social Workers is to speak openly about our children's adoptions so that they never experience a "finding out" moment but where does that advice stand when siblings come into play? Katie was 2 when we adopted her and has always known she was adopted. I have started telling Pip stories about how he came to live with us so that those stories are part of his awareness too. The ever-changing nature of Birth Families however means that we will always get information second-hand (if we're lucky) and we will probably often face this dilemma of what and when we tell our children. I am also very aware that each time a piece of information is shared it rakes up emotions that our children may not always be ready to handle. It's a huge responsibility as an adoptive parent knowing when to share. We are already seeing how unsettled Katie is. She's had to deal with an unsettled school month when her teacher was away and all the emotions of seeing Kip. She is clearly unsettled about her Birth Mum at the moment. I think that's enough for anyone to handle, let alone a 6 year old child.
I would welcome any thoughts and comments and stories of how other people have handled these situations. I feel very under-prepared to manage all these issues. I know we will fumble and stumble our way through it all as best we can but I want to do better than fumble and stumble. Advice and recommended books to read would be really appreciated.